No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. . . . Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." --John Donne
Now that Bart had taken off on Jack’s bike, the raccoon army mistakenly converged on him instead of Jack, who stood like a statue on the other side of the park and watched the pursuit in amazement.
He had known since yesterday that he was being chased, but now Jack knew what was chasing him. The first two lines of G-Pickle’s song drifted back through Jack’s mind as the church bell chimed a second time.
“Nip and tuck, danger, duck,
Raccoons riding in a truck."
It was too dangerous to stay here any longer and Jack was supposed to be at Brendan’s house at eleven to catch a ride to Denver. Without a bike, Jack couldn’t make it in time. Then the second two lines of G-Pickle’s song drifted through Jack’s mind.
"To dodge them all, you’ll need some luck,
And a bike that’s in the muck.”
Instantly, Jack knew what he had to do. He ran to the park bench and sat down. This was the exact spot where Jack had been sitting when Dog Bait lost his beater bike in the river. The church bell chimed a third time.
Jack looked directly from the bench to the light pole on the opposite bank of the river. He had seen the beater bike plunge underwater along that exact line of sight, about ten feet from the shore. Jack aimed himself at the distant light pole sprinted down to the water as the church bell chimed a fourth time.
Before the church bell could chime a fifth time, Jack was in the muddy water, feeling around for whatever part of the bike he could get a hold of, desperately pulling it up onto the riverbank, and jumping on while water gushed from inside the frame and handlebars.
As the church bell chimed for the sixth time, Jack and the beater bike were slowly picking up speed on a sidewalk bordering the park. With one last glance to the other side of the park, Jack saw the entire army of raccoons pounce on his bicycle and on Bart.
For just a moment, Jack saw that Bart appeared to be half riding and half running in what looked like a woman’s enormous fur coat. In the next moment, Bart was running across the park like a rugby player, tossing and punting raccoon footballs in all directions. But finally, the scrum of angry raccoons grew large enough to swallow him whole.
The church bell chimed for a seventh time, but Jack was already at the foot of the Jefferson Street hill with a full head of steam and a beater bike that was rapidly dropping weight as the water drained from it.
Jack climbed like he was off the front on the last lap of the Old Capital Criterium in the Pro/1/2 race. He was just over the top of the hill by the time he heard the church bell’s eighth chime.
A white-knuckle left turn across traffic and skidding through a crosswalk full of pedestrians marked the ninth chime.
Two chimes to go. His ride to Denver was due to leave at eleven o’clock, and Jack didn’t intend to miss it.
Jack threw all of his effort into the pedals and reached Davenport Street on the tenth chime of the church bell. Jack sprinted for all he was worth.
He nearly laid the bike down as he carved through the next corner but saved it just in time to avoid bouncing off of a city bus. He had just enough time to blink before he spotted Brendan’s address and locked up the brakes, jumped the curb, and skidded to a stop in front of Brendan’s porch. The church bell chimed eleven o’clock. He was out of breath and still soaked with river water, but Jack had made it on time.
“Hey Jack,” said Brendan as he came out of the front door with duffle bag and a backpack. “You’re soaking wet. What have you been doing? Ghost riding cruisers into the river with Dog Bait and Sluggo?”
Jack just stood there, still catching his breath. Brendan was surprisingly close to the truth. “You’ll have to sit on a towel until you dry off,” said Brendan as he pulled one from the duffle bag and handed it to Jack. They walked over to Brendan’s car, a big white ’79 Chrysler 300 that looked more like a three hundred foot yacht. Captain Brendan asked, “Do you have a bag? I thought you were bringing a bike.”
“Uh, no,” said Jack between breaths. “I changed my mind about the bike.” Jack was just starting to realize that he had lost his bicycle and that he would probably never see it again. His bike had been through a lot with him, and though it was no more than a mile away from where they stood right now, there was no safe way to go back and rescue it. Jack knew that he had to follow Sister Kim’s instructions and escape, no matter what the cost.
“Well, suit yourself,” shrugged Brendan. “Let’s go. I want to reach Denver by ten tonight.” They hopped in, and Brendan skillfully piloted the big boat-like car away from the curb and down the street. They were soon on the interstate heading west.
to be continued...
[a serial by little orphan dbax]
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